Global conference in Paris defends French model of secularism

Laïques de tous Les Pays, Unissez Vous

A global gathering defending the French model of secularism (laicite) was held in Paris over the past weekend — with the co-presidents of the Freedom From Religion Foundation in attendance.

The conference, which was the first of its kind, took place Dec. 8 and 9 at Paris City Hall. The Association Laïques Sans Frontières and the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain were the co-organizers in collaboration with the Comité Laïcité République and the EGALE Association (Equality Secularism Europe) and in partnership with Charlie Hebdo, Marianne magazine, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the U.K.-based National Secular Society and the U.S.-headquartered Center For Inquiry.

The event brought together more than 40 personalities, including FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor. They addressed different themes, such as the importance of laicite for women’s rights, atheism in the Islamic context, contemporary challenges linked to laicite and its role in preserving democracy.

At the end of the conference, “The Paris Appeal” was launched, the text of which is reproduced below:
Because we refuse that religion dictates its law to the City (the “Polis”) and affirm that the separation of religions and the state protects the rights of all regardless of their personal convictions, be they atheists, believers or agnostics.

Because we reject all discrimination and racism, in the name of our common humanity.

Because we fight obscurantism, fundamentalism, communitarianism.

Because we consider that the right to be different should not lead to a difference in rights.

Because we strongly condemn any violence or constraint against the expression of free thought.

Because we demand access for all to knowledge and to rational and emancipatory education.

Because we are deeply attached to the values of freedom, equality and justice.

Because we are for a world of peace where reason takes precedence over beliefs, and which recognises universalist and humanist principles.

Because laicite cannot be confused with the secularisation of societies, we demand the right to freedom of conscience.

Gathered on Dec. 9, 2023, the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and anniversary of the French law on the separation of Church and State, we launch “The Paris Appeal” calling on Laics of all countries to unite for:

  1. The promotion of laicite as a fundamental principle of democracy, pluralism, universal rights and freedoms in all societies.
  2. The complete separation of religions and the state in political structures and systems, particularly in the law, the judicial system, education, health and all public services.
  3. ⁠The abolition of restrictive religious and cultural laws in the civil, penal and family codes. We refuse all regulations and practices imposed on women which violate their dignity and deny them the right to bodily autonomy.
  4. The right to freedom of conscience and expression, including the right to change religion or to have none and the suppression of the offences of blasphemy and apostasy.
  5. Equality between women and men, and citizenship rights for all.
  6. The defence of dissidents threatened by the state or society for their belief or convictions.
  7. The right of all to live and love according to their free choice.

“It was an invigorating opportunity for us to affirm our collective adherence to secularism — particularly the French variety,” says Barker.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is the largest freethought organization in the United States, with 40,000 nonreligious members and several chapters all across the country.

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